Previous studies showed that alcohol (EtOH) intoxication before burn injury suppresses mesenteric lymph node (MLN) T cell functions and increases gut bacterial translocation. In this study, we examined whether corticosterone (Cort) plays any role in suppressing MLN T cell function and bacterial accumulation after EtOH intoxication and burn injury. Rats were gavaged with EtOH to achieve a blood EtOH level of ∼100 mg/dl before receiving 25% total body surface area burn or sham injury. A group of rats was treated with the Cort synthesis inhibitor metyrapone (25 mg/kg) at the time of injury and on day 1 after injury. Two days after injury, a significant increase in blood Cort levels and suppression of MLN T cell proliferation and PL-2 production was observed in rats receiving combined insult of EtOH intoxication and burn injury compared with rats receiving EtOH intoxication or burn injury alone. There was no change in T cell apoptosis after combined insult of EtOH and burn injury. Furthermore, T cell suppression was accompanied by a significant decrease in p38 and ERK1/2 activation (phosphorylation). There was no difference in JNK activation after EtOH and burn injury. Treatment of rats with metyrapone prevented the suppression of MLN T cell proliferation, IL-2 production, and p38 and ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Restoration of T cell function in metyrapone-treated animals was also associated with the decrease in bacterial accumulation in MLN. These findings suggest that EtOH intoxication before burn injury augments Cort release, which suppresses MLN T cell function by inhibiting p38 and ERK1/2 activation and promotes bacterial accumulation in MLN after EtOH and burn injury. Copyright © 2005 the American Physiological Society.